FIRST-PERSON: 6-time RTN preacher sees first professions of faith
This year, I participated in The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s “Revive This Nation” (RTN) evangelism program for the sixth time since I began as a student here in 2013. In my first five experiences, I saw the Lord accomplish great things.
As I have testified often, the fact that I could preach at all was proof of God’s hand of blessing upon those revivals. For how else could I, who grew up being quite shy, stand before a group of people—many of whom are years older than I—and passionately proclaim God’s Word? Only the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit could enable me to do such a thing.
Beyond that, I saw the Lord touch the congregations to whom I preached. In my first preaching assignment, I saw an elderly couple tearfully repent of not giving the Lord their all. The next year, I saw a man become speechless when confronted by the beauty and majesty of God presented in Scripture. In two years of returning to the same church in Sturgeon, Missouri, I saw people, hungry for more of God, delight in the nourishment that comes only through the study of His Word.
Every year, people told me they were greatly encouraged by the preaching they had heard. But in my first five years, despite my impassioned pleas for the lost to come to Christ, I never saw anyone make a profession of faith.
This year, I returned to Sturgeon for the third year in a row. After the first few services, people again told me how much they appreciated my preaching and how blessed they were to hear God’s Word proclaimed. Given my past RTN experience, I was ready to accept that this was all God had in store for this congregation.
And to be clear, that’s not a bad thing. If God intends nothing more for a revival than to encourage His people with the truth of His Word, then that is enough. And I thanked God for what He was doing.
On the next-to-last night, however, God gave me an extra blessing. After the service, I stood at the door of the church and spoke to congregants as they left for the night. One woman stopped to tell me that she had been encouraged by the previous night’s sermon. In that message on Haggai 1, I exhorted the congregation to step out in obedience to the Lord, trusting that God would be with them. The woman told me that the message inspired her to have a spiritual conversation with her mother, presumably the first of its kind.
The fact that God had moved a woman to begin evangelizing to her mother was a great encouragement to me, and I assured the woman that her obedience to the Lord was now the highlight of my week.
Then came the final night of the revival.
The last service fell on a Wednesday night, meaning that children and youth from the church’s student ministry, which normally assembles on Wednesday nights, joined the rest of the congregation to worship the Lord and listen to my final sermon. As I always do, I ended the message with an invitation, but this one I handled differently. Instead of inviting people to speak to me at the front of the room, I gave a heads-bowed, eyes-closed invitation, calling those who wanted to make a profession of faith to raise their hands. To my great delight, two students raised their hands.
With every head bowed and every eye closed, I spoke directly to those two students, questioning whether they truly understood what I was asking of them, and whether they truly wanted to follow through. They kept their hands raised.
I invited the students to go to the back of the room and speak with the pastor and another adult so they could have any questions answered and, hopefully, place their faith in Christ. One of the students, a boy, did so without hesitation. The other, a girl, did not.
The girl’s response was obviously discouraging, for her heart had clearly been stirred, but she was apparently too shy to follow through. Fortunately, a church member sitting behind the girl sensed that something was happening, and so she invited the girl as well as the other students sitting around her to move to the front of the room and pray at the altar. I am unaware of how the Lord used that experience, but I trust a seed was planted in the girl’s life that will eventually lead to her salvation.
While this was going on, another young girl who had not raised her hand nevertheless went to the back of the room to speak with the adults there. I later learned that both she and the boy made professions of faith in Christ that night. God saved two lost souls. Praise the Lord!
I am grateful that Southwestern Seminary has given me so many opportunities to preach God’s Word, and I am grateful that God has always blessed those efforts. And how awesome that, this year, God moved a young woman to evangelize to her mother, and, for the first time in my personal RTN experience, saved two young souls.
Our God is a God who saves. Let us continue to step out in obedience to Him, trusting that He will be with us. And let us celebrate when He brings the harvest.